Steve Pardoe's Cellnet Pages: Negative Feedback

E-mail correspondence critical of our campaign

Cellnet Index page

Logotype of Telecom Securicor Cellular Radio Limited used here for the purposes of illustration and fair comment only

This edition 07/01/2002

We've now had another e-mail critical of the campaign, which I'm publishing below. This was only the third, in three years, though we've had some flak on Usenet. Of the two previous ones, the first still appears on this page;

1. January 2002 : CW writes:
This is all very odd, because when I was a pay-as-you-go customer I could only top-up with the one card I had registered in the beginning. Couldn't use my Mastercard and when I changed banks I went to Genie contract because it was easier than registering another card. Sometimes I wonder if people such as yourselves make all this stuff up just to have a go at big companies.

The second critical e-mail was removed at the author's request, after further consideration of the merits of our case.

The first one was received from "PC", a BT Cellnet customer, who found our site and was critical of the campaign. I'm publishing it here in the interests of balance, with some comments which may save someone some effort if they can get a quick review of the case.

After I replied in some detail to PC, he wrote to apologise for his outburst, and commended our determination in pursuing the campaign.

For clarity, PC's e-mail is in this font ; my replies to him are in this one.


27. April 2001 : PC writes:
I am writing to express my shock at your allegations about fraud committed by BT Cellnet. Having been a BT Cellnet customer for almost seven years, and having used their services for a wide range of applications, I was naturally horrified to read your claims about their conduct regarding Pre-pay phones.

Indeed, as would be any right-thinking person.

That was, until I read the contents of your site...
In short, it seems that your anger about the theft of money from your Credit Card account is being unreasonably aimed at a company that clearly would have no interest in claiming money fraudulently from members of the public.

On the contrary, for reasons clearly set out on our pages, BT Cellnet are very happy to gain market share this way. They have had two years to solve their fraud problem, and have decided not to do so, despite frequent promises to the media.

I have used credit and debit cards to make purchases from a wealth of companies both by telephone and the internet and have to say that BT Cellnet's procedures are thoroughly typical. My two daughters use credit cards to top up their non-BT Cellnet pre-pay phones and follow precisely the same system as the one adopted by BT Cellnet.

There is plenty of evidence that this particular fraud is overwhelmingly a BT Cellnet problem. Other operators are nowhere near as bad. This is not merely my opinion, it has been expressed by more than one bank, and corroborated by radio and TV programmes.

What is more likely? That BT Cellnet surreptitiously obtain credit card details to steal money; or that you left your card details lying around so that someone could use them to buy call-time?

Two answers, if I may:

(1) This is what BT Cellnet tell their victims, but it's nonsense. I'm afraid you haven't read the site carefully enough. The data needed to perpetrate the fraud are in plain view on the card, and are printed on the till receipt, so it's easy for the thief (for example, someone working in a garage), to read them afterwards and top up their phone. There is absolutely nothing that the cardholder can do to prevent this, short of never using his card. That is what makes this system so dangerous, as APACS said, it's an invitation to fraud. Other "customer not present" transactions have additional security built in, but Cellnet chose a fully automated, short-cut system, for commercial reasons.

(2) Even if I had been careless with my card security, which is what Cellnet accused me of, their attitude when I rang to complain was appalling. I was lied to, fobbed off, and treated like an idiot. There was no apology, and no compensation for my inconvenience. It was that behaviour, as much as the loss of the money (which I got back, with an extra 50, from Barclaycard) which prompted this campaign. It's clear from our correspondents that they are equally upset by this, as you can see if you read some of their e-mails and letters.

Large companies are often guilty of bad business practice but it seems that you're devoting an unhealthy amount of time trying to 'expose' one that doesn't appear to deserve it at all. Why don't you attack non-ethical financial institutions, or polluting fuel companies?

One thing at a time....

Oh yes... it's because they haven't been involved with you losing a paltry sum of money.
I understand that BT Cellnet have approximately 8 million customers. I'm sure they make quite enough capital to avoid the need to steal pocket money from people like you.

Again, I'm afraid you misunderstand BT's motives. They don't need the money, but they do need market share. A thief who can top up his BT phone for free isn't going to migrate to another network, and BT can easily afford to subsidise a few refunds, as the airtime costs them next to nothing anyway. Many victims won't notice, or won't complain hard enough, so BT keep their money.

You're clearly an adept (albeit basic) web designer and I'm sure your talents could be used more constructively.

Thank you, and they are. Our climbing pages get a lot more hits than the Cellnet ones. I keep the code very basic because many of our readers are in countries where it's not easy to keep upgrading your browser, and their modems are slow.

Will your web site put me off BT Cellnet? No.
Do I think you pose a threat to them? No.
Do I think your site is a waste of server storage space? Yes.
Will this letter appear on your web site? I would think not!

On the contrary, I am happy to publish it, since right from the outset I have always respected people's opinions, whether they supported our argument or not. In several cases I have made minor factual corrections to our pages, as I believe that the integrity of the campaign is more important than my ego. However, it may surprise you to know that yours is the very first e-mail we have received which is critical of the campaign itself (as opposed to criticising some detail of it), though we have admittedly had some negative feedback on Usenet. That's why I'm taking the trouble to reply at length.

Your letter is at http://www.pardoes.com/cellnet/negcorr.htm .

Grow up.

I'm 53. I don't think that this campaign is immature, and nor am I.

Thank you again for writing to express your opinion so clearly.

Steve Pardoe


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